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Purdue teams with Ericsson, Saab to build 5G network at Purdue Airport

Purdue University Airport recently announced a collaboration with Ericsson and Saab, in which the partners will create a unique 5G network that will serve as a “Lab to Life.” This network will be “a proving ground for academics, researchers and business to develop commercial solutions that can be replicated to improve operations and security at airports of all sizes.”

The project’s goal will be to bring private 5G’s benefits to life for airports, enabling high-performance networks to be tested in real-life scenarios.

Airports today install sensors and systems that require hardwired network connections, which often need physical connection points via trenches for copper lines or fiber-optic cables. They can also consider point-to-point radio frequency links, which are often unreliable, or public cellular connections that come with subscription fees and consumer-oriented performance limitations.

The Purdue University, Ericsson and Saab collaboration at Purdue Airport looks to make the current approaches obsolete. The tech exhibited at Purdue will provide airports with more flexibility to add or relocate products when the airport goes through construction phases, saving time and resources for operators and consumers.

“Expanding the lab-to-life platform to the Purdue Airport creates great opportunities to advance aviation and mobility innovation and education in partnership with industry, faculty and students,” said Troy Hege, vice president of innovation and technology for Purdue Research Foundation. “The combination of Purdue’s operational airport, research faculty and students with Ericsson’s Private 5G network and Saab’s sensor arrays and operating systems is an innovation and education asset that is unlike anything else that exists today.”

What goes into the lab-to-life platform

Ericsson will contribute a private 5G network for the Purdue Research Foundation to operate at the Purdue University Airport, which is located in the southwest portion of the West Lafayette campus. It conducts more than 125,000 aircraft operations annually, making it Indiana’s second-busiest airport.

Meanwhile, Saab will install Aerobahn™, a platform that unlocks airport efficiency for airlines and ramp management. The defense and security company will also install SAFE Event Management platforms, a security platform used in airport operation centers and deploy ADS-B sensors to track aircraft. Each investment is meant to improve landside operational safety and efficiency and improve airside security.

Purdue will provide use of its airport as well as the lab-to-life testbed established throughout Discovery Park District at Purdue, a 400-acre, mixed-use development adjacent to the university’s campus.

“Purdue University is the perfect location for this project to innovate airport management,” Purdue President Mung Chiang said in a statement. “Purdue has established longstanding partnerships with Ericsson and Saab, two Swedish innovators and global tech leaders.

“Purdue University Airport is one of the handful of airports operated at a research university in the U.S. And Purdue’s Discovery Park District, next to our airport, has provided a lab-to-life ecosystem where cutting-edge technologies are deployed before any other locations in the country. No other location is better suited for these exciting 5G innovations and network management solutions that will impact people’s lives around the globe.”

Ericsson Private 5G is a 4G and 5G dual-mode core private network that has been crafted to drive the digital transformation across a variety of industries and enterprises. Ericsson Private 5G is a high-performance, easy-to-use, cellular connectivity solution built to power innovation for Industry 4.0.

“We are witnessing uptake in global demand for digitalization at airports that requires stable, secure and high-performing wireless networking,” said George Mulhern, head of Ericsson Enterprise Wireless Solutions. “Ericsson’s Private 5G network will enable cellular connectivity for the lab-to-life innovation platform at the Purdue University Airport.”

Meanwhile, Saab will be the first industry partner to use this dedicated 5G network. Saab opened an advanced manufacturing facility in Discovery Park District at Purdue in 2021. That state-of-the-art facility supports production of the T-7A Red Hawk, which will train the next generation of U.S. Air Force fighter and bomber pilots for decades to come, according to the company.

“This platform is intended to showcase how state-of-the-art airport systems can work with 5G technology,” said Saab U.S. President and CEO Erik Smith. “By combining airside and landside operations to improve airport efficiency and planning, the platform at Purdue will help us continue that journey. Investing together with Ericsson at Purdue is a no-brainer and a win-win for Indiana. We’re proud to be a part of this innovative 5G project, leveraging our longstanding track record of excellence in air traffic control to deliver a solution that will be replicable across other platforms.”

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